James’ The Tree of Knowledge is the story of Peter Brench who has taken a lifelong interest in his godson Lancelot, an unsuccessful sculptor, and his wife. Now Lance wants to give up university and study painting in Paris. Peter tries in vain to persuade him to continue at Cambridge. After one year’s study in Paris, Lance returns for a holiday and tells Peter that he realizes that his talent is too small to make a success of a career as a painter. Subsequently he understands that Peter’s muted response to his announcement was because what the latter was really afraid of was Lance’s discovering his father’s mediocrity. but he has always known of that. After a further fruitless period in Paris, Lance is ‘publicly’ upbraided by his disappointed father and thus discovers that his mother too has always known Lance’s father artistic worth.